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MCH2087 : Media and Democracy (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Joss Hands
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module aims to extend and deepen the critical, contextual and theoretical understanding of students developed at level 4 in particular relation to the role of the media, as both technology and institution, in contributing to democracy, free speech and self expression - as well at its role in constraining and manipulating such freedoms. The module will explore the history of democracy, various theories and democratic practices, with attention to the importance of communication and media to the development and forms of democracy. The module will pay particular attention to the concept of the public sphere.

The module will also explore the importance of capitalist political economy in the power of commodification of media systems, the challenge to public service broadcasting, the role of advertising in shaping editorial content and the challenge that the Internet has produced. Students will be encouraged to critically reflect on their own consumption of media, in particular news and current affairs, and explore ways in which their own understanding of the world and their relationship to both formal and informal politics has been shaped, as well as relating this back to the theories studied on the module and their ongoing significance for checking the power of media by the polity. These aims will be examined in the assessments for the module, firstly in the form of a comparative news analysis, and secondly in a more theoretically and conceptually oriented longer form essay.

Outline Of Syllabus

The connections between communication, media and democracy

Free speech and the history of media

The history of the public sphere the increasing importance of mediation

Controversies in the concept of the public sphere, the meaning of democracy and power

Arguments against liberal democracy and the normative role of the media in supporting it

Counter-publics and alternative media

The role of the Internet and digital technology in continuing democratic change

Threats to democracy and freedom of speech

Struggles over control of the news agenda, new forms of control in a digital society

Case studies illustrating and exploring contestations in democracy and challenges to democracy itself

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading190:0090:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity124:0024:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This module allows students to bring together the study of contemporary theories of the media and public sphere with current events; the lectures will aim to provide the backbone of the theoretical material, introducing key concepts, approaches, theorists and readings – as well as connecting these to current affairs. The seminars with provide the opportunity for students to reflect on this material and develop their own positions and perspectives, the seminars will entail a mixture of group led work, tutor led discussions and an opportunity for students to bring in pertinent material to stimulate debates, for example newspaper clippings, video or internet based materials. This will contribute directly to the oral presentation, which will be a comparative news analysis. Some lectures may also entail screenings that will provide the opportunity to view full-length documentaries on contemporary themes, aimed to illustrate both good practice in public debates and reporting, as well as provide stimulus for seminar discussion and a connection to the theoretical framework. These documentaries may vary to reflect relevant and current themes.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation201A25Oral presentation, 10-20 minutes
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A753000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment methods offer the opportunity for students to explore the main themes in the module’s syllabus in both a reflective and applied way. Firstly, the essay is designed in order to allow students to reflect on the critical and social theories that animate debates over democracy in media and cultural studies, and to develop and express nuanced arguments and synthesise ideas. Secondly the oral presentation allows the students to focus specifically on current affairs and the power of the news to shape the presentation and perception of events in the public realm, and for them to apply their critical tools to challenging ‘common sense’ interpretations of the news and to develop their presentation and discussion skills.

Reading Lists